On 22 May, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg faced live questions at the European Parliament. He offered an apology for recent data breaches and the misuse of personal information. These came to light following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But the speech from staunch anti-EU MEP Nigel Farage was quite astonishing.
“Your biggest client”
Farage opened by saying he was “the largest user of Facebook in all the EU institutions”, telling Zuckerberg “I’m your best client”.
People on Twitter noted Zuckerberg’s face as he said this:
Even better WTF face from Zuckerberg as Farage goes off on one about how he's his biggest client in Brussels pic.twitter.com/hb7rHNfkx9
— Danny Kemp (@dannyctkemp) May 22, 2018
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Also, it turns out what he said may have been misleading:
Farage lying again, this time about having the biggest following on Facebook. Farage has 786K followers while the EU Parliament has 2.5 million. Even Macron has 2.1M #Zuckerberg
— Len Pannett (@lpannett) May 22, 2018
Farage then went on, without the slightest shred of irony, to say:
There is no way that Brexit, or Trump, or the Italian elections could ever possibly have happened. It was social media that allowed people to get round the back of mainstream media.
Again, people commented on Zuckerberg’s face at this point:
Mark Zuckerberg's face as Nigel Farage praises the social network for enabling Brexit, Trump, and the Italian election results. pic.twitter.com/u3hHxgetTD
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) May 22, 2018
It’s not surprising that Zuckerberg pulled a face. Because Britain’s Electoral Commission has fined Leave.EU – backed by Farage and Arron Banks – £70,000, for “multiple breaches of electoral rules” in the Brexit campaign. And as the Guardian has reported, former Cambridge Analytica director Brittany Kaiser confirmed that:
the firm pitched “a very detailed strategy” to Leave.EU on how it could use data and psychological profiling to microtarget people likely to back Brexit in the referendum.
But Farage didn’t stop there.
“Right of centre”
Farage then went on to criticise recent Facebook changes and said:
Since January of this year, you’ve changed your modus operandi. You’ve changed your algorithms. And it has led directly to a very substantial drop in views and engagements for those that’ve got right-of-centre political opinions… on average, we’re down about 25%…
According to a BuzzFeed tech reporter, this wasn’t quite true either:
Nigel Farage credited Facebook with allowing Brexit to happen and then said changes in the company's algorithm caused his traffic on the social platform to fall since January.
We checked and his traffic has been relatively steady.https://t.co/JeQI1gzpzZ
— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) May 22, 2018
But Farage wouldn’t lie, surely?!?
In questioning why his Facebook views were (apparently) down, Farage shared his thoughts [1.38]:
I’m not talking here… about extremism. I’m not talking about encouraging violence. I’m not talking about hatred of anybody.
Yes, Farage said that.
.@Nigel_Farage questions Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: "I'm beginning to wonder whether we need a social media bill of rights to basically protect free speech." Full video here: https://t.co/M8zWVSxs4n pic.twitter.com/sPbKzYk0Y8
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 22, 2018
This is the same man who was accused of spreading “Nazi-style propaganda” with his Brexit ‘breaking point’ posters. He was the figurehead of a vicious Leave campaign which apparently led, according to the Guardian, to the worst “spike in hate crime… on record”. Reports of hate crime increased:
by 42%, to more than 3,000 allegations… across Britain in the week before and the week after the 23 June vote.
And let’s not forget some of Farage’s other ‘best moments’.
- In 2015, he called for the army to tackle the “virtually lawless” refugees in Calais.
- He suggested people with HIV should be banned from entering the UK.
- Channel 4 News found evidence that his school teachers stated he held “publicly professed racist and neo-fascist views”.
- He said he would feel “concerned” if a Romanian family were to move in next door.
- Following the referendum result, he boasted that it was won “without a single bullet being fired” – just days after the murder of MP Jo Cox.
“Who are these people?”
Farage is convinced that Facebook isn’t impartial. He demanded to know “who are these people?” because, apparently, they limit his free speech.
Other MEPs, meanwhile, asked Zuckerberg a range of serious and pertinent questions. Unfortunately, most went unanswered.
Watching #Zuckerberg call the shots on when the meeting is over,and @EP_President shamelessly help him dodge tricky questions is saddening…
what kind of EP is this if it bends over backwards in the face of a CEO who knowingly plays around with the citizens that elected them?! https://t.co/F2yMTAdTK9
— Guillermo Beltrà (@gbeltra) May 22, 2018
Today's session in the EP was a missed opportunity. An hour of questions, followed by a lengthy statement from Zuckerberg, with all difficult questions dodged. The format, which was agreed by Facebook, led to no real scrutiny. It is time that he appeared in front of @CommonsCMS
— Damian Collins (@DamianCollins) May 22, 2018
But Farage openly admitted that Facebook helped to win Brexit. So at least one question was answered, even if not by Zuckerberg.
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